Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Multiply your knowledge

Gentoo Linux

I've waited since Friday and it finally arrived today. Another German Gentoo book is available now!

It concentrates on the experienced Linux user and tries to achieve two things:

  • Get you running on Gentoo if you never used it before
  • Highlight the central Gentoo tools and provide a reference for their usage

For new users it should be possible to grab a laptop, insert the DVD and run through large parts of the book without ever connecting to the net. Thus the first steps with Gentoo are hopefully pleasant.

Even the early chapters feature larger sections that provide in-depth knowledge for the more experienced Gentoo users. All tools, options, variables and concepts are referenced in the thirty index pages of the book. So it should be a good companion while working with Gentoo.

If you need more details you can check the table of contents or even read the chapter on writing ebuilds.

One of the later chapters - "Extending Gentoo" - can be considered the main origin of the whole story. It talks about and layman.

About two years ago I sat down on a weekend to code the basis for layman in order to make the use of as easy as possible. I certainly didn't expect this to have any significant effect. After all layman always was - and still is - a rather trivial script.

But since I liked the whole idea about overlays I decided to write a small article about this concept as well as how layman fits into that. This got published in the German Linux magazine and had one unexpected result: I got an email from OpenSourcePress asking whether I'd like to write a whole book about Gentoo. At that time the answer was "yes".

Would it be "no" today? I'm not certain. I have to say that I hated the three weeks of pure text editing in the final phase of the project. It reminded me far too much of my PhD thesis. Yes, I like writing stuff: emails, wiki pages, blog entries, source documentation, ... you name it. Small stuff. Epic texts turn out to be much harder.

What definitely made it bearable in this case were the systems provided by OpenSourcePress: They give you a subversion repository and the whole text is done in Latex. They also work with Emacs on their end which happens to be my favorite editor too.

And one thing about their subversion repository is really great: You commit crudely written techno-babble on your side and a few revisions later it comes back in well readable German. This is what I definitely liked most about the whole project: Getting rewritten to readable language. Big kudos to the team of editors which really does great job.

So would I do it again? Well, I don't have to decide on that anymore. The basis is there so all there will be are further revisions. And that will hopefully be easier than the first version.

But for now I'll keep the book closed and continue coding...


  1. Since when is Gentoo "All about choices"? That's not our motto. That's not in any of our philosophies nor mission statements nor any of our docs, you know.

    I've even blogged about this before. I disagree with the idea that we're "all about choice", but as long as the rest of your book is good, then congrats on the new book. There's precious little dead-tree Gentoo available.

  2. @nightmorph: I won't disagree :) But packaging everything that Gentoo really is into a single simple sentence would be extremely hard and probably futile.

    While not being 100% correct I feel it is a line that delivers well and to me it conveys a good deal of the spirit I believe Gentoo represents.

  3. True, I wouldn't even try to sum up Gentoo in one sentence. One paragraph, perhaps. :)

    I suppose if I had to try to sum up Gentoo in a sentence, it'd be something like this:

    "Gentoo Linux is the most powerful, owningest, bestest advancest buttkickingest l33test t3hw1nest operating system."

    But that's hardly worthy of being included in a book!